Ethel’s Not Happy Pie Misses Making Sallee’s Grade
Southern Cooking Apple Pie Recipe follows story.
One Friday afternoon just home from school, Sallee skipped into the kitchen as Ethel was preparing dinner. “Hey Ethel! “ She gave Ethel a pat on her ample backside as she slid into a kitchen chair and smiled up at her. “Can you make me a pie for school? I gotta bring one in on Monday. It’s for my Home Ec class— more like home ick class –” she made a face — “if you ask me. I hate that class. I wish Mom didn’t make me take it.”
Ethel poured out a glass of sweet tea. “Want some?” The child nodded that she did. Ethel put the glass down in front of her and poured another for herself. “You is a mess, always talkin’ ‘bout hatin’ dis an’ dat. What kinda pie you want? I’ll have t’ make it at home on Sunday an’ brang it in Monday mornin’ ‘fore you go t’ school.” She took a long pull on the cold tea.
“That would be terrific. Thanks.” Sallee sipped at her tea as she perused the comics in The Daily Progress before moving on to her favorite, the Ann Landers column, tickled pink that she would be bringing home an A for both Ethel and herself next Friday. I am brilliant.
The next Friday as the children filed into the kitchen after school, Sallee was not quite herself. After and Gordy and Helen had left, Ethel stopped peeling potatoes and asked Sallee, “You feelin’ okay? Want some tea?” She resisted the urge to feel the child’s forehead. “You doan’ look like yo’self.”
Sallee seated at the kitchen table leaned her head on a propped arm and sighed, “Yeah, I’m okay. It’s just that I thought I was gonna get an easy A on your pie.” She fiddled with the rolled-up newspaper. “ We got any saltines?” Ethel waved toward the cupboard with her head. Sallee got up opened a cabinet door, pulled out the cracker box, then stood there holding the door.
“What you lookin’ fo?”
“Peanut butter? I don’t know. “ She shut the door, leaving the cracker box on the counter where she had placed it.
Ethel looked from the box to Sallee and back again, “You want ‘em or not?” Sallee shrugged her indecision. “What you mean, you was gonna get an A on my pie? And you didn’? What you talkin’ ‘bout?” Ethel wiped her hands slowly on her ever-present dishtowel as she watched Sallee squirm. She replaced the cracker box in the cabinet with a quick shake of her head.
“Remember that pie I asked you to make last week?”
“Yeah, what about it? Was dey somethin’ wrong wit’ it?”
“It was my homework,” Sallee admitted, downcast.
“My pie was yo’ homework! Was you ‘sposed t’ make a pie fo’ school work an’ you got me t’ do it ‘stead o’ you? Was you de only one dat cheated?”
Sallee jumped to her defense, “You know you make the best pies in the whole world. I haven’t been doing so hot in that class. Remember in the sewing part I had to go see the school nurse when I sewed my finger onto the blouse that I was making?” Ethel shot her a concerned look. “Okay, maybe I didn’t sew it to the shirt exactly, but the needle did go through my thumb, and I bled all over the dumb old shirt. I got a D because of it, and I tell you one thing, Ethel, I don’t want to have to take that class over again.
“Anyway, when our homework was to make a pie over the weekend and hand it in on Monday, I was sure I could get an A if I brought in one of your pies.” She looked sheepishly up at Ethel, who at this point was looming over her with her dishtowel stuck in her apron string and her hands on her hips.
“Sallee Mackey! You know dat was cheatin,’ don’t cha?” Ethel shook her head again as she looked down at the child. “I know you know better den dat.” Sucking her tongue, she turned back to peeling potatoes. “How many pies did you say dey was?
“Ethel, I know. I’m sorry,” Sallee agreed before answering, “Twenty. I just thought my teacher, who thinks she knows everything, needed to know what good tasted like. I was wrong.” Sallee said addressing Ethel’s back. “Besides, there was no way I would be the almost only one in the class that didn’t get an A.”
“Yes’m, you was. What you gonna do ‘bout it, is what I wanna know? The only one!?” Ethel tried to keep her voice even, glad that Sallee couldn’t see her face.
“Punch her in the nose, that’s what I want to do,” Sallee announced. “Yeah, almost all of them.” Ethel stopped her peeling and turned to face the girl. “Everybody thought your pie was the best,” Sallee implored.
Ethel’s face turned stormy. Punch her, Well, why didn’ ya? she thought, but said, “Child, what is I gonna do with you? You need to tell yo’ teacher dat you cheated on yo’ homework, is what you oughtta do.”
“There is no way I’m gonna tell that …”
“Now, dat ain’t no way to talk ‘bout yo’ teacher – “ Ethel added to herself, Even if she wouldn’t know good if it took a bite outta her – “She got a name. What de matter wit’ you? You knows better. Most o’ ‘em?” Ethel caught herself before snorting in indignation, allowing only a modulated “Hmmph!” to escape.
Sallee looked down at the paper she held in her hand and read, “While the pie tasted delicious, it had a soggy bottom crust.” She looked at Ethel with sad eyes, “Ethel, your pie gotta C.”
Although she thought volumes all Ethel said was, “Hmmph.”